Publicize True Costs Of Nicotine Addiction, Nobel Laureate Says
Medical Nobel Prize laureate Harold Varmus on Monday told an audience in Jakarta that the handling of cancer in Indonesia should focus on the battle against cigarette addiction.
“With the high incidence of smokers — that is, 63 percent in Indonesia — the cancer risk assessment should be focused on the impact of tobacco,” said Varmus, a director of the US National Cancer Institute.
Speaking at the University of Indonesia, the 1989 Nobel Prize recipient for his research into genetics said that in the United States the prevalence of cancer was falling, in line with the declining number of smokers. “In America, some 20 percent of the population still smokes despite the obvious danger,” he said.
He said that in Indonesia, he was concerned with the number of smokers, saying that even infants were among them.
“I even read that 10 percent of poor people’s income is spent buying cigarettes,” he added.
He admitted that getting people to stop smoking was difficult. Even with smoking ads limited in the United States, packages carrying horrifying figures of the effects of smoking and underage youth banned from buying cigarettes, more work is needed to get people to quit.
Banning the sales of cigarette, he said was not the answer, because it would only prompt a black market.
He said that what was needed was a massive education campaign to raise people’s awareness that the economic impact of smoking-related disease was much higher than tobacco industry profits.
Also important in thwarting cancer, Varmus, said, was improved vaccine supplies and cancer screening, since forms of cancer such as intestinal, thyroid and breast cancers are caused by genetic factors.
Varmus said that although scientists have yet to agree on a firm scientific explanation, there was clearly a correlation between obesity and cancer.
“We know that obesity can cause cancer, but we do not know exactly how this happens, while for cigarettes, it is clear because cigarettes contain many chemical substances that can change DNA cells,” he said.
Varmus is scheduled to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the National Commission on Tobacco Control during his visit to the country.
“Of course, I will express my concerns about cigarette addiction in Indonesia,” he said.